Sunday, June 22, 2008

Solitude and Reminiscence

This month our book club read “Out Stealing Horses” which was written by Per Petterson and translated from Norwegian by Anne Born. It was the winner of the 2006 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and it is a very special book, one that is written so eloquently that the reader does not want the book to end. Everyone loved the beautiful descriptions of nature, the sparse writing and the stunning imagery.

“Out Stealing Horses” is the story of Trond, a sixty six year old Norwegian man who has left his life behind, after his wife dies, and has gone to live in a secluded cabin in the forests of Norway. Here he looks back on his life and tries to understand the succession of events that evolved over the last summer he spent with his father in a remote village during the German occupation of Norway. As we discussed the story we examined the incidents that happened to try to understand the clues the writer gives us. Was the kiss that Trond witnessed that summer between his friend Jon’s mother and Trond’s father a goodbye kiss? Why didn’t Trond’s father tell him about the resistance activities? When the letter came to Trond’s family from his father, saying goodbye, Why didn’t Trond tell his mother about his father’s affair with Jon‘s mother? Trond was stoic and reticent. But, Why didn’t Trond ever attempt to find his father? He seemed to shut down, yet he states, “I have been lucky.“ (in my life).

The phrase “Out Stealing Horses” was a double euphemism for the dangerous game Trond played with his friend Jon and for the dangerous resistance activities that his father and Jon’s mother were involved in during the German occupation. Tragedy visits Jon’s family that summer and precipitates the ruptures that fracture both families. Trond, his father and Jon all subsequently leave their families. But, many years later in the remote forest where Trond has settled he meets Lars, Jon’s brother. The two old men finally recognize each other but true to form they do not speak about the things that happened so long ago during that summer. Trond states, “I did not have the courage to ask the question. Did you take the place [with my father] that was rightfully mine”?

In the solitude of his life Trond has read “David Copperfield” and like David Copperfield he asks the question, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” And,this is the theme of the novel------Did Trond finally become the hero of his life?

Our book group really enjoyed this novel and had a very good discussion. Another blog on the beautiful imagery of this novel was written by Babbett. So much from one novel!

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